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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

24 B The Risk Register

The risk register ranks risks by the dollar value of each risk according to the operational definition of risk given earlier. Constructing the risk register on a spreadsheet allows risks to be sorted by dollar value so that the highest risks are always on top of the list. The risk register also facilitates keeping all risks in the same data base even though management actions may be active on only the top five or ten at any time. When a high risk is mitigated the expected dollar value of the risk is reduced and it falls out of the top five or ten but is still on the list. This enables reviewing mitigated risks to ensure they remain mitigated or to readdress a risk at a later time when all the higher risks have been mitigated to even lower values. An example of a simple risk register constructed on a spread sheet is shown in figure 9.

Figure 9.  An example template of a risk register constructed in columns on a spread sheet.
The risk type and impact if risk occurs are usually described as “if”, “then” statements. This helps the management team remember specifically what each risk entails as they conduct reviews over the life of the activity. Expected values are expressed in dollars, which facilitates both ranking and decisions about how much resources should be assigned to mitigation activities. I am assuming of course that in managing activities in your organization it is the practice to hold some fraction of the budget in reserve to handle unforeseen events. It is this reserve budget that is assigned to risk mitigation activities. Risk mitigation actions should be budgeted and scheduled as part on on-going work. A failure many inexperienced managers make is handling risks outside of the mainline budget and schedule. This undisciplined approach often leads to risk management degenerating into an action item list and finally to a reactive approach to unexpected events rather that a proactive approach to reduce the risks systematically.
A more complete risk register template than the example shown in figure 9 might contain columns for the risk number, title, description (if), impact (then), types (three columns: cost, schedule, quality or technical), probability of occurrence, cost impact, schedule impact, mitigation plan and mitigation schedule. The form of the risk register template is not critical so the team managing the risks should construct a template that contains the information they feel they need to effectively manage risks.
The risk register, if properly maintained and managed, is a sufficient tool for risk management on small and short duration projects. Setting aside an arbitrary management reserve budget to manage risks is ok for small projects. Portions of the reserve are allocated to mitigation of risks and the budgets and expenses for risk mitigation can be folded into the overall cost management system. Large, long duration projects or high value projects warrant a more focused approach to budgeting for risk management.
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